Owen Worth, Resistance in the Age of Austerity: Nationalism, the Failure of the Left and the Return of God (Zed Books £14.99).
With neoliberal ideas resurgent in the ‘age of austerity’ this thought provoking book examines the radical and reactionary alternatives posed to globalisation.
Questions put to the author, Owen Worth, about the book:
Why write this book?
In the aftermath of the current financial crisis, no concrete alternative had really been seriously given to reforming the way that the global economy was managed. Antonio Gramsci’s understanding of hegemony provides a way of explaining how concepts such as ‘austerity’ are bought into. I wanted to show that whilst there are competing alternatives that seek to build different worlds to the neoliberal one that we live in, these are too weak and fragmented to gain momentum.
How has neoliberal ‘common sense’ affirmed that the market must be worked with and not opposed as something to be controlled?
Neoliberalism has long been a contested concept and is one that encompasses different guises. For example, intervening in the economy to bail out banks was something that ideological free marketeers such as von Mises would have deplored.
What unites them however is the belief that it is the private sector that forms that basis of economic growth and that the state must provide the necessary conditions for these conditions to be met. This unwavering conviction has upheld the basic principles of neoliberal common-sense.
The Zapatista’s started the campaigns against neoliberalism, so why are you are sceptical of their achievements?
I am not sceptical to the achievements of the Zapatista’s per se, indeed in terms of their own achievements quite the opposite. Both the Zapatistas and the Occupy movement have established international links and have made strong criticisms of the neoliberal system, yet these have not been backed up by a firm alternative strategy within wider political society. The lack of political opposition cannot be blamed on one specific movement.
Good on analysis, poor on solutions, is that the response of socially progressive, internationalist organisations to neoliberalism?
Yes, I agree. There has been no end of strong criticisms of neoliberalism, which have certainly challenged its overall legitimacy, but these have not been backed up by alternative solutions.
How important have conspiracy theories been in nationalist opposition to neo-liberalism?
Nationalism takes different forms, some of which can be argued as being progressive. Yet, the form of nationalism described here is the populist, exceptionalist form that is synonymous with the far-right. Here, outside groups are often used as ‘scapegoats’ for the erosion of national myths. Conspiracy is a central part of this as they believe that these outsider groups have secret agendas that restrict and in some cases destroy national forms of culture and identity. The whole process of globalisation is one where national cultures appear under threat from ‘global liberals’, intent on destroying nationhood.
How is the practice of austerity being utilised so that the neoliberal system can be maintained?
Austerity rests upon the belief that the market will somehow pick up if the conditions were right for it to do so. Therefore governments need to cut back on spending, resist any move to intervene in the economy – unless to bail out financial actors needed for market revival – and rely on private actors to create growth and competition. These practices reinforce the logistical workings of neoliberalism.
With no radical alternative’s to neoliberalism then will it survive?
It’s difficult to say whether neoliberalism will survive in the long term. Whilst none of the alternatives discussed in the book seen to be in a position to challenge it, the emergence of China as a serious economic player - and of Latin America - might see a change in the manner in which neoliberalism is applied. This, alongside the potential re-emergence of a social Europe, may push for a more sustained attempt at constructing a postneoliberal world. This in turn might re-stimulate progressive, nationalist and religious forces and allow them to form stronger alternative strategies.
The book is available from http://www.amazon.co.uk/Resistance-Age-Austerity-Nationalism-Failure/dp/1780323352 and
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